When dating apps launched into the market in 2012, they succeeded because they completely transformed the world of dating. One of the frontrunners for this new way of dating was 31-year-old Whitney Wolfe Herd, who started her career on the Tinder development team and created Bumble, the dating app designed to empower females.
However, her career has seen a fair share of public controversy due to people’s ability to voice their opinions and concerns online. While Herd has been successful in many of her endeavours, there have been moments in her career that could have destroyed her brand image. In order to survive, Herd and her team have created content which has helped to maintain the company’s brand image through difficult times.
With the help of digital marketing professionals, Herd has presented a flattering front for her business. She also relied on outsourcing PR and marketing to experts in the industry, which proved to be beneficial for her business. Startups and entrepreneurs can do the same by hiring PR agencies like Pressfarm at an affordable price.
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This article will look at some “failures” of Whitney Wolfe Herd and how she has managed to overcome them and become the successful businesswoman she is today.
1) Creating a business out of conflict
As mentioned, Herd was part of the development team for the dating app Tinder. She later became co-founder and vice president of marketing. Furthermore, was credited with increasing its popularity on college campuses and growing its user base. However, she left the company in 2014 due to increasing tensions with other company executives.
After leaving, she filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment against her ex-boss and ex-boyfriend Justin Mateen and alleged that they had wrongfully stripped her of her co-founder title. Throughout the case, she experienced online abuse from strangers and was portrayed negatively. This is an all too familiar experience for women who have made public sexual harassment allegations. When the abuse turned into threats, she decided to step out of the limelight and developed the idea for a women-only social network called Merci, which focused on positivity. The settlement provided her with $1 million-plus stock in the company.
How she overcame it
Herd overcame this “failure” in the most significant way possible, creating an app that was direct competition against Tinder and changed the dating dynamic. Thanks to the lack of a non-compete clause, Herd was able to start Bumble. It took her a while to regroup and figure out her next steps. Be that as it may, she decided that rather than sulking about the events that consequences of the lawsuit, she would take back some control by creating a platform for women to take control of the dating game.
She could’ve failed, especially since what drove her to create the company was revenge. If Herd had not put her vendetta aside and done her research, then she could have failed from the very beginning. By deciding to take on Tinder, she was entering what was by then one of the most competitive digital fields. She realized that in order to stand out, she needed to create something that was truly revolutionary.
2) Stubbornness at the beginning
During the lawsuit, Herd was adamant about not entering the dating industry again, which is why she turned down the offer from Andrey Andreev when he asked her to be part of the online dating network Badoo at CMO. Herd stated that she wasn’t for hire, and she wanted to start a company that was not related to dating in any way. She did, however, share her idea for a women-centric social network with Andreev. Although he liked her proposal, he ultimately decided to stick with what he knew best – online dating.
As talks continued, Andreev told Herd that he wanted to combine her marketing and branding ability with the infrastructure, capital, and resources that he could provide. While it took some convincing, after Herd settled the Tinder lawsuit, she took Andreev up on his offer.
How she overcame it
Even if Herd had not chosen to partner with Andreev, she probably would have found another way to create a business. However, with his help, Bumble received an initial investment of about $10 million for launch marketing and additional funds to fuel growth. He may have held 79% of the company at the time but Herd was founder, CEO, and 20% owner of Bumble. Furthermore, this partnership helped her to to tap into Badoo’s infrastructure and Andreev’s expertise in the dating market.
Through Badoo and Andreev’s experience, Herd and her company were able to view tests that had been run over the last decade, data that proved the effectiveness of various monetization efforts, and experience what it was like bringing in a new product to the dating market.
3) Tapping into different demographic
As we all know, Bumble is a women-centric dating app that provides women with the ability to begin the conversation first and take control of a situation. It proved to be quite successful because Herd’s initial target audience was ready for this shift due to the hundreds of bad experiences women were having with men on dating apps.
However, as previously mentioned, the Internet has now provided people with the ability to voice their opinions online. Even with Bumble, there were people who were skeptical of this shift in the dating dynamics.
How she overcame it
Once a victim of online harassment, Herd is committed to making the Internet a kinder place for women. From the beginning, she has made it very clear that while her company is female-focused, their goal was not to be sexist but to make the dating game feel more modern. By giving women control of initial contact, the company presented a comfortable way to communicate than its competitors. The controlled environment that Bumble provided resulted in many women opening up about their needs. For example, women shared that they also cared about finding friendships and creating a professional network. These results caused Herd and the team to develop two more platforms that focused on platonic connections and building a professional profile.
In addition to that, she has also advocated in front of the Texas State Capitol to create a law that punishes individuals who send out unsolicited nude photos. She strongly believed that it was time for laws to protect women online. At that time, governments were only concerned with sexual harassment offline. Even so, Herd helped them to realize the advancements in technology called for the law to protect people online as well as offline.
4) Badoo crisis
In 2019, Herd’s close friend and business partner, Andreev, faced allegations of racism and sexism at the workplace. This would have dramatically affected the company, especially given its stance against both racism and sexism. The alleged misogynistic, toxic culture of the parent company and majority owner, MagicLab, would have destroyed any loyalty users had for the brand.
How she overcame it
After news broke about these allegations, she released a statement saying that she had had nothing but positive and respectful experiences with Andreev. Despite her supportive statement, she did not take his side. Rather, she stated that she would never try and challenge someone’s feelings or experiences in this situation. Due to the nature of her brand, she knew that she had to come out with a statement that reflected her brand identity.
Ultimately, Herd wound up succeeding Andreev as CEO of MagicLab after selling his stake in MagicLab to private equity firm The Blackstone Group. After taking control of MagicLab, she decided to fund the UK-based gay dating app Chappy, co-founded by Jack Rogers, Max Cheremkin, and Ollie Locke. Since she was impressed with Chappy’s unique approach, she decided to invest in the app, in addition to offering product development and marketing support for the company.
5) Interesting marketing strategy
While businesses have been relying on digital marketing strategies to improve their connection with their audiences, Bumble relied on traditional PR and marketing to reach their already-digital audience. They used platforms like storefronts, transportation platforms, and other out-of-home advertising venues to highlight their values.
The risk that their digital users would not connect to their content because of their choice of platform was high. Even so, Herd’s strategy paid off, because she was still able to connect with her target audience.
How she overcame it
In order to stay relevant in a highly saturated market, companies need to find new ways to create unique and exciting content. Bumble used their thorough research to understand the importance of combining traditional and digital marketing to reach their audiences. By focusing on location-based ads in people’s neighbourhoods, hangouts, and workplaces, Bumble was able to highlight the diversity in the online dating community.
Moreover, their campaign relied on social media marketing and influencer marketing as part of their campaign strategy. The mutually beneficial relationships they created with thought-leaders and experts allowed the brand to reach larger audiences.
Despite the reason for launching Bumble and the conflicts that Herd has had to experience, she has managed to develop something that helps people find love, develop friendships and create a professional network in a safe space. Herd has shown that regardless of what people say and do, good crisis management and a calm mind are crucial to success.